The Contest Begins
Episode 8 of Under The Queen’s Umbrella begins with the Taekhyeon going ahead. The concubines gather nervously as they prepare for this to begin, with the fate of the kingdom up for grabs. Hwa-Ryeong also reaffirms that her own position is on the line too.
Still, the contest gets underway with all the different young Princes completing the footrace and then working on their archery too. Seongnam gets the upper-hand with this, managing to use his skills learned with the Crown Prince from before to work with the wind to hit the target.
The next stage of this comes from something wholly different. The Princes are forced to try and find Park Gyeong-U in four days, giving him the royal edict. The thing is, the other Princes don’t all play as fairly as others and there are boundless schemes attempting to thwart Hwa-Ryeong’s sons. The State Councilor is, of course, right at the heart of everything but so too is the Queen Dowager.
Prince Uiseong gets an upper-hand from Consort Hwang, who gives some intel to give over before he reaches the mountain. The Queen Dowager is also working with Prince Bogeom too, whom she’s partnered up with.
Hwa-Ryeong needs to do something but she has faith, not just in Seongnam’s ability to overcome the hardships, but also in her desire to play this game cleverly. Those threats are definitely piling up though, as the Consorts all begin to work against her. Well, Hwa-Ryeong heads in and sets up a screen to keep them all distracted – and in one place.
She decides to do embroidery with them and prevents anyone from leaving until they’re done. Of course, this is a cunning plan to prevent them from interfering with the Taekhyeon and it works an absolute charm. That is, except for Consort Ko who’s not actually there.
Now, Consort Ko works to give crucial intel to one of the young Prince, using her contacts to get ahead. That is against the rules but as we know, everyone is at it in a bid to win. They’ve found a shortcut to arrive in Mount Gyeryong a few hours earlier than the others. Ko tells him not to disappoint, as the young man swallows his pride and decides to take the intel head-on.
Not everyone is taking things seriously though, with little Prince Hodong deciding to think with his stomach instead. He’s taking it easy, having already conceded defeat. The rest of the serious contenders though begin riding for the Mountain, having found their own way there.
The thing is, there are bandits all the way along the road and Seongnam just about makes it out of this skirmish in one piece. Their leader is killed by the palace guards who arrive, and save Seongnam from what could have been a nasty demise.
Still, Seongnam presses on but as they arrive at the island, there’s more drama back at the palace. The State Councilor is not happy that the King is appointing Park Gyeong-U as the Minister of Taxation, especially when he was left out of spite. He’s decided they need to stop the other Princes, and to do so by making sure Prince Uiseong is crowned.
Before he can continue yapping on though, the King calls him into the throne room and shows him the arrow that almost killed Seongnam. He claims not to know anything about the arrow but it’s obvious he does. The thing is, the King can’t exactly investigate this thoroughly because in doing so, it would make it look like he’s interfering with the current contest. As a result, he begrudgingly stops the investigation until after the contest.
As the Gyeong-U, he is absolutely adamant that he’s not going back to the palace, while Hwa-Ryeong examines the body of the bandit leader to check for clues. With the physician at hand, Hwa-Ryeong finds evidence of something stuffed inside his mouth. And that happens to be a picture of Seongnam, which reinforces the horrifying dread that this was a deliberate assassination attempt. There’s even a message too: “Kill at all costs.”
Hwa-Ryeong immediately heads back in to see the Consorts and demands the truth, determined to find out exactly who was plotting against her. Consort Hwang is incredibly suspicious with the way she’s acting and keeps a stiff upper-lip when she leaves the room. She also brushes past the other Consorts without a word too, leaving Hwa-Ryeong to stare daggers through them all.
Prince Bogeon and Seongnam are the two who come closest to uncovering the truth about Gyeong-U, even finding out that he’s not blind thanks to Seongnam’s cool head and quite literally jumping from a cliff and holding a branch to prove him wrong. The next day, while out on the shore, Cheong-Ha finds Seongnam and rushes up to him, throwing her arms around him. Hilariously, he barely remembers who she is.
Hwa-Ryeong searches the town and manages to find the co-leader of the bandits. After capturing him, she finds out that a woman gave them the composite. She had a frog hairpin which means they were working with the Queen Dowager.
Hwa-Ryeong shows up in her room, gushing sarcastically about how amazing she is. She hands over the composite sketch and the poisonous plant, threatening her under the guise of compliments. “Please… preserve your health.” She says, as the episode comes to a close.
The Episode Review
After the exciting episode yesterday, Under the Queen’s Umbrella returns with a slightly subdued chapter, casting a much wider glance across to the wider world with these Princes off on their Taekhyeon and the Palace working tirelessly to either thwart or work with them.
There’s a lot of political ties and scheming here, and Kim Hae-Sook does a wonderful job bringing the cunning Queen Dowager to life. It really helps that the acting is great all round, but there are parts that don’t quite work, including the weird subplot involving Chang-Ha and the Minister of War. Still, I’m sure that might come into play later on down the line!
Either way though, the ending promises that the Queen Dowager and Hwa-Ryeong are likely to clash much more violently later on down the line. Who will make it out on top?